The Marklin HO System

Everything tends towards the middle. This is true in politics as it is in normal life. After Marklin presented HO Gauge as the scale in the middle in 1935, it quickly won over the majority of the model railroaders. For HO is both: large enough for the naked eye and for normal handling. Small enough for the average home. Yet, a good concept is not enough to hold a majority of the market; the way it is carried out must also work.

So why should you decide on Marklin HO before getting involved with model railroading? Simply pointing out the worldwide, enduring success of this system would be too easy. Because this success is only the result of many good reasons of which any one can tip the scales in favor of Marklin HO, and which form the sum of the Marklin system.

Suitable for hard, everyday use on a layout

A Marklin model railroad layout fulfills very different, in part contradictory demands. It will survive the rough and tumble enjoyment of children’s play and also satisfies model railroaders with its high quality models. Complex track patterns and operations can be easily set up. Marklin models always offer the best possible compromise between robust reliability and prototypical detailing. The propulsion technology is designed with proven motors and a high level of durability.

Quality metal construction

We produce the frame, gear train and body out of metal on our high quality models of locomotives. The costly, high-pressure diecasting process, done in part in a vacuum, produces complex body forms that are as finely detailed and free of flaws as the flat design of modern electric locomotives. The high level of weight improves running characteristics and pulling power. Its proximity to the prototype makes metal construction even more authentic and appeals to the senses.

Simple electrical system

An essential feature of the Marklin HO system is the simple and easy to understand electrical system resulting from the use of center rail track. Complete, illustrated instructions explain the setup of power circuits, signals with train control functions, and multi-train control. Children and the less technically minded will be able to understand them, and experienced model railroaders will find it easier with these instructions to set up complex layout control systems.

Compatible couplers

The Marklin standard coupler became a common standard for the TO system in Europe. Interesting switching operations are possible with the RELEX coupler and uncoupler tracks. The TELEX coupler allows remote control uncoupling anywhere on the layout. With the Marklin close coupler cars can be coupled together very closely like the prototype. On many of the models the coupler head fits into a standard coupler pocket.

Working features just right for play and for operation

Marklin models are focused on their prototypes in appearance and in function. Removable stakes, hoppers that can be tipped, unloading hatches, and working models such as a turntable or a crane give life to operations on a layout. Digital operation offers even more working features depending on the model, such as lighting circuits and sound effects circuits that can be controlled, and adjustable running characteristics.

Prototypical lighting

The headlights on most of the locomotives change over with the direction of travel, on modern cab control cars they change from 3 white headlights to 2 red marker lights. More and more locomotives are coming out with near constant brightness for the headlights and maintenance-free LED’s. Light diffusion bars spread light through the passenger cars. With current-conducting couplers, a single pickup shoe powers the lighting for an entire train. In digital operation, locomotive headlights and car lighting are also on when the train is stopped and can be turned on and off with function buttons. Auxiliary long-distance headlights for locomotives or lighting in working models can be turned on and off digitally.

Various ways to expand

The Marklin HO program offers you an almost inexhaustible selection: Attractive starter sets and track extension sets, three track systems for expanding in steps, layout technology for conventional or digital operation, multi-train control with DELTA or Marklin Digital, fully functioning catenary with an independently controlled power circuit, locomotive and car models from all eras as well as prototypes from Europe and the USA, an extensive range of operations and layout accessories. Your Marklin layout will grow with you and with your interests, and it will offer new ideas and themes again and again.

Complete range of accessories

The Marklin HO system has everything to make operating trains varied and realistic; three track systems, working models, signals with train control functions, working catenary, lights as well as electrical and layout accessories. In addition, the accessory companies offer an abundance of buildings, vehicles and working models that you can use.

Compatible and here for the future

It is an important Marklin principle that locomotives, cars, and technology remain compatible as much as possible. Hence, most of the locomotive models from the 1950s will also run on the latest C Track sections, and Marklin close couplers will also mate with standard couplers. Many older locomotives can be retrofitted with a DELTA electronic circuit, digital decoders, or high-efficiency propulsion systems. You can convert your layout to Marklin Digital step by step, run trains digitally and operate accessories conventionally or digitally. With the Motorola format Marklin Digital will be here for the future.

The HO Track System

The core of the Marklin HO system is the center rail track system. Examining its advantages makes the comparison clear:

More contact area for reliable electrical pickup

With two-rail track, as with most direct current systems, one rail is the positive side, the other is the negative side. The current flows up through the wheels on one side to the motor and back through the wheels on the other side into the track. The wheels must be insulated from each other. On a small, three-axle switch engine this means that there are three wheels each for the positive and negative sides. If you take into account two traction tires necessary for appropriate tractive effort, the contact area is reduced to just 2 wheels each for the positive and negative sides.

With the three-rail system the electrical current flows through an additional center rail and the pickup shoe to the motor in the locomotive and returns to the track (ground) through the wheels. Since both rails have the same polarity, the three-axle switch engine can use all six wheels just to return the current. The center conductor is likewise always linked with several stud contacts. Moreover, the pickup shoe keeps the contacts clean.

This double contact basis makes the Marklin system very reliable in operation and less susceptible to dirt. Good contact is guaranteed on critical areas of the layout with dense concentrations of turnouts.

Symmetrical current conduction

The second advantage of the center rail system is its electrical symmetry. A very simple example is the reverse loop    –    a track that turns on itself for the purposes of turning a train. On the normal two -rail system the two opposite polarities meet each other at the turnout. This requires additional electrical circuits to avoid a short circuit in the track and to reverse the polarity in the locomotive traversing the reverse loop.

With center rail track the same polarities always meet each other at the turnout, because the center conductor is always in the center rail and both outer rails always have the ground or negative polarity. Whether it’s a reverse loop, a wye, or complicated track configurations – the electrical setup remains simple and manageable. The locomotive will traverse all sections of the layout in the direction set for it without the need for electrical circuit tricks. Setting up a working catenary system is also very simple. As with the center rail in the track, the current flows symmetrically from the pantograph on an electric locomotive to the motor and through the wheels to both outer or running rails in the track. The practical use of this is a second independently controllable power circuit for electric locomotives.

Reverse unit for changing direction

With the Marklin system a locomotive’s direction of travel is not changed by reversing the polarity in the entire track; it is done by a reverse unit in the locomotive itself. In the past this was an electromechanical relay; today it’s an electronic circuit that reverses the motor when a short impulse of current is sent to it – as a side benefit it can also activate other functions. The difference here is that each locomotive has its own direction of travel, while with the direct current system all locomotives travel in the same direction for a particular polarity in the track.

C-Track and K-Track

The three HO track systems are also compatible with one another: the earlier M Track, the new C Track, and the K Track without a roadbed. Naturally, you can’t just put track from the three systems just anywhere on a layout, but the transition sections allow you to connect entire sections of a layout with each other as well as use working models such as the turntable and the transfer table. C Track with K and M, K Track with C and M, M Track with C and K, naturally.

Digital and Delta Operation

DELTA multi-train system and Marklin Digital The Marklin multi-train systems offer totally new possibilities for joint play, or for realistic train operations. As the entry level system for small to medium size layouts, the DELTA multi-train system can control four to five locomotives independently on a single power circuit. Most Marklin locomotives come from the factory with the electronic receiver circuit built into them. A wide variety of other possibilities is offered by Marklin Digital: Up to 80 locomotives can be controlled independently from each other. Locomotives with high-efficiency propulsion systems will catch your eye with prototypically controllable running characteristics, and locomotives with a special function decoder will get your attention with additional, remote controlled functions such as headlights / marker lights, long-distance headlights, smoke generator, locomotive horn, motor sound effects, or TELEX couplers.

Any one wanting to control accessories digitally, will profit from the easy wiring and practical functions such as the Memory and automatic route control. And the connection to a personal computer makes it possible to control accessories and train movements from a computer monitor screen.

Catenary – The fourth dimension

Catenary adds another dimension to your layout. Operating with catenary is much more realistic than when a locomotive’s pantographs are stretching up into empty space. Electric locomotives “under the wire”, the maze of wires in a station area, speeding past catenary masts brings into play more variety and visual reference points.

Marklin’s catenary is a proven system – reliable in operation and trouble-free during setup. The masts are simply clipped to the track or screwed down, the wire sections are clipped on, and adjustment sections enable you to install catenary over any track layout. Even complicated track patterns can be “electrified”; you set up the Marklin’s catenary just as quickly as you did the track. The stability of the system will prove itself during train operations, too, because nothing will become bent or demands constant adjusting. With this sturdy design it makes no difference how often you set it up and take it down.

All Marklin’s electric locomotives are equipped with pantographs copied from the prototype. They glide with a springy up and down motion under the contact wire and thus reproduce in the model the real life experience.